Godwin, Powell understand concept of Father#039;s Day

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 17, 2005

Ezell Powell has plenty of experience in dealing with youth. A lieutenant with the Greenville Police Department for nearly 25 years, he has spent several years working as a resource officer for the city schools.

He is also the man no less than 19 young people will be wishing a "Happy Father's Day" tomorrow.

"I have five natural children, seven adopted children and seven stepchildren," Powell explains.

He claims ten boys and nine girls, ranging in age from 17 to 35, as his own.

There's Melissa Denice, Wanda Lee, Ezell III, Irene Powell, Mary Louise, Michael, Archie, Amelia, Tasha, Monica, Christopher,

Mario, Archie Van, Tonya, Dan Dewayne, Shawana, Marcus, Dione and Ebony.

'It's a challenge'

Powell will quickly tell you fatherhood "is a big, never-ending challenge."

"You wish they came with an instruction manual, but they don't," he says with a wry smile.

His blended family presents a somewhat unique challenge to Powell and his wife, Nettie.

"When you adopt a child, there is very little information about their background and problems they may have encountered along the way. You hope and pray what you try and teach the children will outweigh or override anything else," Powell says.

He also believes it's important to let those adopted into the fold know someone does want the best for them and their future.

"Sometimes adopted kids feel let down by life. Their attitude is 'nobody cares about me', so we work to let them know, hey, we do love you; we want good things for you," explains Powell.

"I want these kids to realize just because you ended up being adopted doesn't mean you can't achieve and be successful in life," he adds.

As for what makes a good father, Powell says he is "still trying to find that out."

Setting boundaries

Disciplining children and teaching them good morals and values, he says, is definitely a step in the right direction.

"From my experience with the police force, being out on the streets dealing with kids, I just don't want to see my kids acting like that – being disrespectful and talking back to adults. I have tried to teach them better,' Powell stresses.

Because every child is different, Powell says he has discovered you can't treat one child exactly the way you do another.

"For example, I had one child I whipped one time – and that was all it took. No more problems. Others have required more discipline along the way. Some you can send to the corner. Some you've got to whip," he explains.

Powell believes young people appreciate boundaries.

"I know from working with the kids in the schools – they want to know what they can do and what they can't. They want some discipline in their lives," he says.

"They need parents – not buddy-buddies," Powell adds.

Working together

As a father, he believes moms and dads should show a united front to their children.

"If their mother says 'no,' I agree. If I say 'no,' she agrees. My wife backs me up and I back her up. Children will try and play you; they don't realize we communicate with each other about what is going in their lives," Powell says with a chuckle.

This dad also believes in "doing," not just "telling."

"Teach your kids Christian values. Don't just send 'em to church; take them with you to church," Powell stresses.

Even though his two youngest children will graduate from high school next year, the Powell nest will not be empty.

"We have a three-year-old granddaughter, Tamaya, we are raising. She is very active and eager to learn.

And she won't let Nettie out of her sight," he says with a smile.

Powell is looking forward to Father's Day 2005.

"Oh, yes – I think it's gonna be a great day," he laughs and nods.

'Children are a godsend'

W.S. Godwin and his wife Rebecca had hoped for a dozen youngsters to fill their household. However, they are very happy with the nine youngsters -six girls and three boys – that did come along.

Mary Bertha, Ercil Edward, Hannah Rebecca, Reuben Gray, John Warren, Joseph Aaron, Andrew Allen, Nathaniel Austen and Sarah Elizabeth "are all named for family ancestors," their dad explains.

They are carrying on the family tradition of double names with their own children. "We have six grandchildren, with one on the way, two sons-in-law and one daughter-in-law," Godwin says.

As they approach their 30th wedding anniversary, "Rebecca is still the cream in my coffee," Godwin says with a twinkle. As for their children, who range in age from 9 to 29, their dad sees them as "a real godsend."

The busy father of nine, who has taught both full-time and part-time in the public school system, also puts in many hours working at the Greenville Wal-Mart.

A self-confessed "workaholic," this husband and father says he decided a long time ago he wanted his children to benefit from having a mother at home.

"Rebecca and I both believe the values Mama teaches at home are so important – that's why I've always worked hard to allow her to stay at home for the children," Godwin explains.

"I have always emphasized to the children moms get to stay home with the kids and dads are the breadwinners. My oldest girls' husbands believe that, too," he says.

A strong work ethic

Godwin has tried hard to instill his own strong work ethics into his children.

"The family has always shared responsibilities, whether it's folding towels or taking out the trash. As the children got older, they started helping out with the younger ones," Godwin says.

He also encourages the boys to learn how to do a job right.

"They earn extra money by doing yard work but I make sure they do it perfectly – I think learning the value of a job well done is so important," says Godwin.

He says he has gotten good feedback from those who have employed his children.

"They tell me the boys have an outstanding work ethic you don't see in a lot of anymore," says Godwin.

Feeding a large family is certainly no easy matter. It's the reason Godwin plants a big garden each year, something else the children can help out with.

"We have always eaten well at our house.

Other kids have been amazed before we don't eat hot dogs all the time – Rebecca's a wonderful 'from-scratch' cook and we have healthy sit- down meals," he explains.

'Teachers can't do it all'

The value of a good education is something else the Godwins, who have seen all their children excel in school, stress.

"I teach English and history, and Rebecca is a certified math and science teacher, so we have always been able to sit down with our children and help them out," says Godwin, adding, "Parents need to be involved – teachers can't do it all."

A nightly reading hour is stressed. So is prayer at very meal and at bedtime.

"Our Christian faith is very important to us and we've always been involved as a family in church," says Godwin, a deacon and Sunday School director at First Baptist Church of Greenville.

Manners matter

That over-overlooked practice, proper etiquette, is also emphasized in the Godwin household.

"We always have a formal dinner on Sunday with the china, crystal and silver. The girls and ladies are always seated first and the boys are taught to stand up when a lady walks in the room," says Godwin.

"I know it might sound old-fashioned to a lot of people, but those kinds of things are important to us and we want to pass our values on to our children," he adds.

Godwin admits he demands a lot from his children, who are "good kids, but certainly not perfect."

"If they do get a ticket for, say, running a red light, I expect them to do their community service without complaining. I want them to be good citizens and well-rounded people," Godwin explains.

What advice would he give to any man striving to be a good dad?

"Love your children; show it. Kiss them, hold them – always see they are tucked into bed at night. We wait up for our kids," Godwin says.

"You also need a good wife because she is the backbone of the family – I wouldn't trade mine for 50 other women, and that's the truth," he adds.